Young people in Melton are to get their own social and entertainment club in the town in a ground-breaking £250,000 development.
The Venue, earmarked for the ground floor of Phoenix House in Nottingham Road, will be a members-only scheme for youngsters aged 13 to 17.
They will have the opportunity to relax in a bar-like environment drinking soft drinks such as non-alcoholic cocktails and eating food, play pool, dominoes and darts, listen to live bands, surf the internet, attend arts and crafts sessions or just chat with friends.
Youngsters will also get the chance to take qualifications in subjects such as substance and alcohol misuse and sexual and medical health awareness to help them get jobs in youth work and there will also be courses to teach them how to cook.
Melton Learning Hub, which organises practical courses for young people who are disengaged from learning, are heavily involved in the new project and its managing director, David Cowell, said: “The Venue will be a contemporary entertainment centre for young people in Melton.
“It will also promote healthy lifestyles and be somewhere youngsters can develop their confidence and self-esteem.
“What we are planning is totally unique, like the learning hub was when we launched it.”
The initiative came to fruition following a suggestion by young people in the Say Yes campaign, which developed from Pera’s charitable foundation aimed at boosting the employability prospects of young people.
The scheme has received a National Lottery grant of £179,000, Melton Borough Council has contributed £12,000, The Pera Foundation gave £7,500 and Melton Aurora Rotary Club £3,000. Significant contributions have also been made by Melton Learning Hub and Voluntary Action Melton.
Organisers have appointed a full-time manager to run the scheme, with help from two part-time assistants. Volunteers are also being recruited to help supervise sessions.
Mr Cowell added: “We have consulted extensively with young people to provide what they want. The idea initially is to open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and in the daytime on Sundays but we can change these times if there is demand for it.”
Councillor Pam Posnett, lead member for young people on Melton Council, said: “This is really exciting for young people in Melton and it’s something which addresses some of their frustrations.
“They want somewhere they can meet their mates rather than on street corners. It is a wonderful opportunity for youngsters to develop something which could be used by young people for years to come.
“Some will be annoyed that it is in the north of the town but if the merger of Voluntary Action Melton and the learning hub goes through there is the potential to provide transport for those who don’t live near it.”
Students from Melton Learning Hub were involved in deciding what activities and services are likely to be offered at The Venue.
Two of them - 15-year-olds Harry Whitford and Emily Hill - said the facility would be welcomed by young people because it was somewhere they could go in the evening without having to spend any money.
Harry added: “People my age want to just hang out with their mates and have fun and this is somewhere they can do that and try different activites.”
Emily said: “I don’t know anywhere like this. I hope they also put on lots of things for girls like beauty sessions for nails and hair.”
A new entrance is planned on the side of Phoenix House which faces Sainsbury’s supermarket. Most sessions will be free, although those who attend must join as members. Occasionally there will be charges for entry, such as when live music is put on. There is capacity for around 100 young people in the building at any one time. Youngsters living in villages will be welcome as well town dwellers.
Anyone interested in working as a volunteer at The Venue or organisations who would like to partner with the project are invited to email David Cowell on firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 01664 564967.